The Competition Authority recently fined 10 window cleaners for their market sharing activities in 2006. The information on which the authority based its case was once again(1) passed on by the public prosecutor, which prosecuted the window cleaners for tax evasion and money laundering.
The public prosecutor had qualified the cartel as a criminal organisation and prosecuted the behaviour under criminal law. However, the Court of Appeal of The Hague ruled that (part of) the window cleaners' behaviour qualified as a cartel infringement and as such could be penalised only under the (administrative) Competition Act.(2)
Unlike in other EU member states, such as the United Kingdom, it is not possible to impose criminal penalties for competition law infringements in the Netherlands.(3)
The authority imposed fines of €1,000 each on nine of the window cleaners and a symbolic fine of €1 on one other window cleaner.(4) While the fines may appear to be quite low - particularly since market sharing is a hard-core restriction - they will likely hit the cartel participants hard, since they are all small sole entrepreneurs with modest turnover rates.
For further information on this topic please contact Jolling De Pree or Erik H Pijnacker Hordijk at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek by telephone (+31 70 328 53 28), fax (+31 70 328 53 25) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).
(1) For further details please see "Listening in: Competition Authority uses telephone taps installed by other regulators".
(2) The Hague District Court, Glashelder of June 9 2008, LJN:BD3383. For further details please see "No criminal penalties for cartels (yet)".
(3) A bill introducing criminal penalties against competition law violations is under preparation, but rumour has it that the bill has been shelved.
(4) Apparently this window cleaner has retired and has only a small income.